McLaren Confirm Coulthard, Raikkonen for 2004

Briton David Coulthard will stay at McLaren next year in an unchanged line-up alongside Finland's Kimi Raikkonen, the Formula One team confirmed today.

McLaren Confirm Coulthard, Raikkonen for 2004

Briton David Coulthard will stay at McLaren next year in an unchanged line-up alongside Finland's Kimi Raikkonen, the Formula One team confirmed today.

McLaren also said in a statement that Austrian Alexander Wurz and Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa would remain as reserve and test driver respectively. The announcement at the Hungarian Grand Prix means Coulthard, Championship runner-up in 2001, will be starting his ninth successive season at the Mercedes-powered team that he joined in 1996 from Williams.

"I'm pleased to be driving for the team for the ninth year in succession," said the Scot. "I really feel part of the (McLaren) family. I'm convinced that my experience will continue to provide the team with great benefits and look forward to the last four races.

"I will do everything I can to support the team in their World Championship battles and then both Kimi and I will start focusing on our 2004 campaign."

The Scot, Britain's top-ranked driver for the last three seasons, has been under pressure this year as Finland's Raikkonen left him trailing in the standings.

The Finn remains a title contender, third overall and nine points adrift of Ferrari's leader Michael Schumacher, while Coulthard is seventh and 30 points off the pace.

"I think David and myself have formed a strong partnership and work well together, and we will continue to do so next season," said Raikkonen, whose compatriot Mika Hakkinen established a record six-year pairing with Coulthard.

The team announcement ended any question of McLaren signing Juan Pablo Montoya from Williams for 2004 but paddock speculation continues to suggest that the Colombian will replace Coulthard in 2005 when his contract runs out.

"We have to have the best drivers available and I believe that we have achieved that objective," said team boss Ron Dennis. "David and Kimi form a strong combination and together with Alex, Pedro and everybody in the team we have a strong package."

The statement also appeared to end Wurz's hopes of returning to a racing seat next year. The Austrian came close to taking Antonio Pizzonia's job at Jaguar this season before the Brazilian was replaced by Briton Justin Wilson.

"As every racing driver will confirm, racing is what you want to do," said Wurz. "However I know that my contribution to the development programme makes a real difference and is a key factor to the success of the team.

"As a result, until the right opportunity comes along, I strongly feel that I couldn't be in a better place."

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